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Create a winning HR strategy for the food & beverage manufacturing industry

The food and beverage manufacturing industry is very particular. Strict regulations and standards must be met to ensure the safety of consumers, and production, engineering, and quality control teams require bespoke experience and knowledge that can only be found in this industry. Plus, with round-the-clock operations, workforce management and retention can be quite challenging.

But is your HR strategy up to the challenge?

The importance of HR in the food and drink manufacturing industry

HR plays a strategic and indispensable role in the food and beverage manufacturing industry. It is the backbone of managing and developing the workforce that is essential for success. This involves hiring, training, and retaining skilled employees who can handle the unique challenges of this industry. A robust HR strategy can make all the difference in ensuring a successful business operation.

HR challenges and how to overcome them

With the Food and Drink Federation reporting that in 2023, there were significant staff shortages across various food and beverage manufacturing roles, from highly skilled engineers and scientists to machine operatives and packing operators, it is clear that the industry faces several HR challenges that require strategic solutions. These challenges include:

1. Recruitment and hiring processes

Recruiting and hiring in the food and beverage manufacturing sector can be particularly tough due to ongoing shortages of qualified talent and fierce competition. Plus, with the need to hire in volumes during certain times of the year, these challenges make it crucial to adopt innovative recruitment strategies to attract potential employees and retain top talent.

So, how can you overcome this challenge?

  • Partner with educational institutions to create pipelines of graduates who have industry-specific knowledge and skills.
  • Develop internship apprenticeship programs to provide hands-on training and attract young professionals interested in pursuing a career in the food and beverage manufacturing sector.
  • Invest in a recruitment software designed for food and drink manufacturers. It not only assists in recruiting large volumes of specialised skills but also stores previous employees who have worked on flexible contracts. This means you can easily contact them if there are short-term staffing issues, ensuring a smooth and uninterrupted operation.

2. Efficient employee scheduling

The food and beverage manufacturing industry is a 24 hour operation. Therefore, scheduling employees efficiently is critical. HR must ensure enough staff to meet production demands and maintain a safe working environment while avoiding overstaffing and unnecessary costs.

However, an efficient employee scheduling system goes beyond just ensuring enough employees are on the floor. It also involves considering factors such as employee preferences, skills, and availability. This involves using data analysis to accurately determine staffing needs, creating schedules ahead of time, and having plans in place for managing worker absences.

Integrating your production schedules comes in handy here. With the right technology tools, HR can schedule workers based on production demand and have real-time visibility of employee availability. But it’s also about keeping a close eye on your budget. The right tool should highlight your spending on your workforce, ensuring you never go above budget.

3. Managing complex work patterns

With efficient employee scheduling comes the challenge of managing complex work patterns. In the food and drink manufacturing industry, employees may be required to work long hours, night shifts, and even weekends. This can lead to burnout and negatively impact employee well-being, decreasing productivity.

To manage this challenge, you should:

  • Consider implementing flexible work arrangements and different shift schedules, and allow employees to swap shifts easily through the HR platform.
  • Prioritise employee wellness and provide resources for managing stress and maintaining work-life balance.
  • Allow employees to have a say in their work schedules by submitting their availability through the HR platform and swapping shifts when availability changes.

4. Staff management and retention

Staff management and retention are major challenges in an industry known for having high turnover rates. Some effective methods to combat this include:

  • Providing competitive compensation packages that include benefits such as healthcare, retirement plans, and bonuses.
  • Offering opportunities for career progression through training, development programs, and internal promotions.
  • Conducting regular employee engagement surveys to gather feedback on improvements that can be made in the workplace.
  • Introduce effective rewards and recognition programs to acknowledge employee contributions and boost morale.

5. Ensuring accurate payroll

Paying your employees accurately and on time is crucial in any industry. It is the minimum expectation of employees, and any discrepancies are sure to lead to dissatisfaction and loss of trust. However, in the food and drink manufacturing industry, where multiple pay rates, shift differentials, and overtime calculations are involved, as HR leaders and professionals, you must ensure accurate payroll processing if you are to keep your employees happy and motivated.

To achieve this, you should:

  • Invest in a reliable payroll software that can handle complex pay calculations and ensure pay accuracy.
  • Ensure proper record keeping of all employee hours and wages to avoid disputes. This can be made easy with geo-tagging and geo-fencing employee clock-in and out records.
  • Empower employees with an AI HR chatbot, such as ELLA, to explain their pay, understand, and report any discrepancies.

6. Compliance requirements

Adhering to various standards and regulations is a critical HR responsibility in an industry where food safety and quality are paramount. From UK food safety regulations, such as the Food Safety Act 1990 and the Food Hygiene Regulations 2006, to employment laws, like the Working Time Regulations and Equality Act 2010, HR must ensure that the company complies with all legal requirements. This involves conducting regular audits, providing training to employees and managers on compliance regulations, and having proper documentation in place.

This should all be in one unified, single source of truth—a place where documents can be created, sent, signed, actioned, and stored. Therefore, it is essential to invest in a robust HR platform that can easily handle all these compliance requirements.

7. Training and development

On the note of adhering to compliance requirements, developing comprehensive training programs for food and drink safety, handling, and preparation you cannot risk putting training on the back burner.

Make sure that your employees’ training records are in one place and can be accessed quickly. This will help ensure that all employees are up-to-date with their training requirements and avoid any potential risks. Integrating this with your workforce planning tools will also safeguard you and your business from scheduling employees with expired training qualifications.

8. Workplace safety

This brings us to the final point on workplace safety. Yes, we need rigorous sanitisation protocols and health checks to protect our workers from the risk of illness, but workplace safety also involves creating a culture of safety.

This is where cross collaboration with managers to identify any potential hazards and implement safety procedures will come in handy. Send out a survey via your HR software to understand the current state of workplace safety and get feedback from employees on improvements that can be made. Regularly review and update your safety policies, conduct training sessions, and have a system in place for reporting any incidents or hazards. This should all be undertaken in one platform to allow consistent monitoring and tracking.

What does the future look like?

Just as the production equipment and tools will be upgraded, so will HR operations in the food and beverage manufacturing industry. With advancements in technology and AI, HR professionals can look forward to more efficient processes and increased productivity.

The future of human resource management is digital and data-driven. With the right HR platform, you can automate tasks, access real-time data and analytics, and make informed decisions. This will not only streamline operations but also enable HR to focus on developing strategies for employee engagement and retention.

How elementsuite can help

Your employees are your most valuable asset, and it is essential to prioritise their safety and well-being in the workplace. By effectively managing complex work patterns, providing opportunities for growth and development, ensuring accurate payroll, and complying with legal requirements, you can create a positive work environment for your employees.

elementsuite offers a comprehensive HR platform designed for the food and beverage manufacturing industryto help you achieve this. With features such as workforce planning, time and attendance tracking, compliance management, and employee self-service tools, elementsuite can streamline your HR processes and drive better business results.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can support your HR operations and support your food and beverage manufacturing business.

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